Sing for your supper, sing for your life

Thank you for checking in.  Here’s some of the latest Rochester music news, mostly about singing contests.


This year’s Classical Idol competition sparked a little controversy. More on that later.  

Judges awarded first prize to baritone Nicholas Pallesen, whose performance of “Ford's Monologue” from Verdi’s Falstaff struck panelists as flawless.

Alisa Peterson, who sang “Piangete voi?” from Donizetti’s Ann Bolena, earned second place, and third prize went to Antoni Mendezona for a spunky performance of “Glitter and be Gay” from Bernstein’s Candide.  The Audience Favorite Award went to a man from Quebec who’s authored a book on crepes.  Marc-Antoine d'Aragon sang ”Largo al factotum della citta” from The Barber of Seville.  Past winners have gone onto great things: Jonathan Beyer recently debuted at the Metropolitan, and Kathryn Lewek, is appearing as (among other roles) the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Magic Flute in Berlin.



So here’s the tiny controversy part.  Following the contest, Eastman Opera Music Director Benton Hess shot this note to the event’s public facebook page:

“What a shame that, for the second year in a row, the Classical Idol Competition has been scheduled the same weekend as the big spring opera production at Eastman...last year MANON; this year BARTERED BRIDE. That means that none of the singers involved in those productions, some of them among the very best singers in Rochester, could participate...or even go. The Eastman productions are part of a very complicated grid in Kodak Hall; the voice and opera department at ESM has virtually no control over when these productions take place, but the dates are easily learned with a simple phone call years in advance. I wish someone at the ROS would take the trouble to do that before scheduling in the future. It would make for a better competition.”

Contest organizers with the Rochester Oratorio Society thanked him for his comment and said they would take it into consideration for next year.


This year I was most fortunate to emcee the Rochester contest wearing two gowns from Panache, a vintage clothing store.  It was a thrill to get an expert opinion and two lovely dresses via stylist Carin Lilja, a Swedish-born Rochester resident who worked for Chanel before moving to the Flower City.  Carin’s unprecedented nine-page fashion spread hits bookstores in Rochester Magazine in late April, with a launch party scheduled April 26th at the Memorial Art Gallery.

I’m happy to see more style and glamour cropping up on Rochester’s classical music scene. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied a fashion show at the airport last fall during Fashion Week, the fastest-growing cultural event in town.  What do you think?  How important are clothes in a performance?

Pianist Stephen Hough considers the role of fashion in his work.


Music fans are talking about this Saturday’s Lotte Lenya Competition, a contest in which contestants compete for significant monetary prizes: $15,000, $10,000, and $7,500.  A panel of judges will hear Doug Carpenter, who played the role of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a musical by Amanda Jacobs and Lindsay Warren Baker.  Two Eastman School of Music singers made the finals this year. They are recent Metropolitan Opera competition winner and graduate student Matthew Grills and alumna Natalie Ballenger

I advise you to make a day of it. I only went to the finals last year and felt I’d missed a lot.  All twelve singer-actors compete from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a lunch break from approximately 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. At 8 p.m. the competition ends with a concert including all of the finalists, followed by (could they build in any more suspense?) the announcement of the winners.  Both the daytime finals and evening concert are free and open to the public, and will take place in Kilbourn Hall on Saturday, April 21st.


Opera fans, mark your calendars. The Metropolitan Opera 2012 National Council Grand Finals Concert (with Eastman School of Music tenor Matthew Grills) – will air on Thursday, May 10th at noon.   In a recent interview with WXXI’s Julia Figueras, Grills talked about the experience and said he hoped WXXI would be able to offer it to you. We can and we will!